It takes a Village

An African proverb says It Takes A Village To Raise a Child. I agree. The children in our community are our collective responsibility.

At least it was when I was growing up in a village in Negri Sembilan. The sight of the next door Makcik was enough to make us drop whatever naughty ideas we have of having fun; playing in the mud, near the river, climbing a tree etc.

And this is because Makcik is perfectly capable of telling mom and dad…and then you siap la. Not only will you get spanking for being “naughty” but also an additonal rotan for being seen as being up to no good by the neighbour and bikin malu your parents.

So yeah, you toed the line because it is not just your parents that instil fear in you. Your teacher, headmaster, the vegetable seller, roti man, ice cream man…they are all authority figures that ensure you behave.

In hindsight, I realised that this community also looked out for my well being, and served as the eyes and ears of my parents.

Living in the city these days, many of us in vertical pigeonholes that are called apartments and condos, such neighbourly spirit is missing. Progress has also brought about the darker side of mankind in greater numbers.

So we have perverts that prey on kids. Guys who get turned on by child porn. Guys who visit Thailand every year to have sex with underaged girls or boys. They come back and look around them for fresh victims.

They look at our kids. Our neighbour’s young teen. The cafeteria owner’s primary-school uniform-clad 9-year old. Your own niece. And you know what, in these days of “mind your own business” standoffishness, many who still have this concern for another’s children, dare not say anything for fear of being seen as “jaga tepi kain orang”.

Yet, if all of us looked out for the kids in our surroundings, there probably would not be cases like Sharlinie, Nurin, Shearwei Ooi, Presheena….the list goes on.

My ex-colleague JB once said, “If I find Nurin’s killer, I’ll kill him with my bare hands.” Another friend Iz, who has two young daughters, say he probably would open the door with a gun in his hand when some guy turns up to take his daughter on a date.

I could not find fault with their sentiments on the matter. The world is f***ed up enough as it is.

Maslina Siadin’s father and brother went searching for her all the way to south west Sulawesi. She was found and brought back home. A Malay daily reported her father as threatening the guy who abducted his daughter that he would “penggal kepala” (chop the guy’s head). Do you blame the father?

The Star’s A.Asohan today used unprecedented strong words in his column Stray Thoughts as he talks of the threat to his daughter’s safety. Doting fathers can turn into utter monsters if you mess with their kids. I cannot find a single fault with his sentiments.

I have five nephews and one niece. If I get my hands on anybody who hurts or meant to hurt them, I will not hesitate to kill or maim.

Crimes against children is an especially heinous brand of evil, by any standards.

What do we do then? Why, be a busybody of course. If you see a young child unattended, ask around. Protect him/her. Find the parents. Do something. Get involved.

For when a child is violated, it will be our collective responsibility. Our collective guilt. We owe it to our young to protect and nurture and provide a safe environment for them.

If we can’t, then 50 years of Independence and progress doesn’t mean much.


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